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REVIEW / Tales from the Borderlands (PC)

 

In November 2014, publisher 2K released the first chapter of a brand new dose of Borderlands to the prominent franchise’s fanatics. After developer Gearbox Software joined forces with Telltale Games, the refreshing, witty, storytelling experience that is Tales from the Borderlands was born – and what an entertaining creation that is! Unlike the usual despair and emotional roller coasters experienced during playing other episodic games like Telltale’s The Walking Dead or Dontnod Entertainment’s Life Is Strange, Tales from the Borderlands is an episodic adventure delivered in the most pleasant and whimsical way possible.

 

An enjoyable element in Tales from the Borderlands was the presence of not only one, but two playable characters

An enjoyable feature in Tales from the Borderlands was the presence of not only one, but two playable characters

 

In Tales from the Borderlands, you play as Rhys, an ambitious Hyperion employee who aims to climb the ladder to the top of the weapon-manufacturing corporation – with the help of his fellow colleagues (and NPCs) Vaughn and Yvette. You also play as Fiona, a con artist residing in Hollow Point on planet Pandora with her sister Sasha and their crafty caretaker Felix, making a living off of bamboozling those who possess big money. The story unfolds by both characters narrating past events from their perspectives as you play along.

 

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Throughout the game, Rhys, Fiona, Sasha, and Vaughn cross paths and discover the Gortys Project. This is more or less a way into a vault known as the Vault of the Traveller. The four amateur Vault Hunters get to face multiple hazards along the way, such as Hyperion top manager Hugo Vasquez, gang lord Vallory and her son August, Rakk Hive, bandits, and more. The episodes also feature very frequent cameos from the franchise’s beloved nemesis Handsome Jack, the sword-clad Zer0, and the feisty Athena.

 

Here, you can see Fiona staring at the rather photogenic Rakk Hive - which is described in-game as "a skin condition"

Here, you can see Fiona staring at the rather photogenic Rakk Hive – which is described in-game as “a skin condition”

 

Moving on to the narrative of the game, the plot for Tales from the Borderlands is sturdy and well-layered, yet lighthearted – all thanks to the writers. The game’s script is full of laughter-inducing lines, classic innuendos, and lines of profound sincerity (and sometimes cheesiness). What brought the script and narrative to life is just as stellar: the voice acting. Troy Baker, Laura Bailey, Chris Hardwick, Erin Yvette, Nolan North, Ashley Johnson, and Dameon Clarke lent their voices to Tales from the Borderlands as Rhys, Fiona, Vaughn, Sasha, August, Gortys, and Handsome Jack respectively. They have all managed to deliver their parts in the most expressive way possible – adding a huge comedic factor and emphasizing character development through their vocal talents.

 

Tales from the Borderlands also stands out for its traditional Telltale art style, as well as catchy, engaging music

Tales from the Borderlands also stands out for its traditional Telltale art style, as well as catchy, engaging music

 

Tales from the Borderlands has quite the art direction. The art style is almost typical to that of traditional Telltale Games, but with an additional comic book art twist and a cartoonish touch. The game’s hues range across the spectrum of all colors, but is mostly centered around Earthy colors with varying shades of brown, yellow, grey, and orange. Yet, the game still retains its outlandish look – in a good way. The characters were designed rather dapperly and smartly, such that those from Pandora resemble each other with a few common elements (such as colors or fabrics or clothing items), but still differ from each other so that each character still remains unique.

 

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Another form of art in Tales from the Borderlands is the music. Jared Emerson-Johnson worked on the game’s original score – including music for action sequences, exploratory gameplay, and cutscenes. The mood was set perfectly with the futuristic layers of music and thrilling techno sounds that fit quite well with the Pandora/Hyperion aura. The music matched the player’s current task: if there’s a quick-time action sequence, the music is more hectic – and if the player’s supposed to look for clues, the music is more laid back and mysterious. Tales from the Borderlands did not only have an original score, but it also featured songs from musicians Jungle, Shawn Lee’s Ping Pong Orchestra, The Rapture, James Blake, and First Aid Kit – making the episodes’ intros and outros as awesome as can be, allowing you to immediately lose yourself in the world of Borderlands.

 

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The gameplay in Tales from the Borderlands is very simple, yet extremely fun due to the hilarious narrative, outstanding voice acting, fetching music, unconventional art, and all other in-game elements combined. The mechanics are are rather basic: you use the WASD keys, mouse, and Q and E keys for quick time events and inventory actions. The episodic Telltale series revolves around timed, choice-based gameplay and quick time events. The user interface design is straightforward and does not complicate the gameplay. For each of the two playable characters, there are special abilities or gear. Rhys has an ECHO eye implant that allows him to scan his surroundings for information or hacking vulnerabilities. He also uses a stun baton for hand-to-hand combat. Meanwhile, Fiona owns a Derringer pistol with elemental effects – where the bullets shot can shock, set fire to, or corrode the target.

 

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Despite all the good, Tales from the Borderlands suffers from minor drawbacks, such as inaccurate lip-syncing – which could be a huge problem to those who do not appreciate the artistic approach of the designers for the game. In addition, from personal experience, the race sequence in the first episode has graphical inconsistencies, where the lighting and brightness of colors can differ across two halves or four quarters of the display. However, from the relatable, goofy dialogue to the badass music and quirky characters, Tales from the Borderlands is a refreshing and genuinely enjoyable Telltale experience that is guaranteed to bring you recurrent grins and chuckles.

 

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So, if you’re interested, Tales from the Borderlands for PC is digitally available on Steam for $24.99. If you’re more into palpable versions, the physical disc copies will be out starting April 26th in North America for $19.99. For more information on Tales from the Borderlands, check out their official website. And if you play it, always remember: silence is a valid option.

 

 

This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by the publisher.

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